My husband and I were wandering through Borders the other day, and I was intrigued by title of this book- “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.” One of the pivotal factors in deciding to buy the book was this quote in the book:
A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. – Lao Tzu
One of my central tenets is that it takes much more courage to admit your mistakes and try to learn from them than to try to hide or avoid the inevitable errors we all make. Yet so many people are so concerned with looking perfect and infalliable, they end up in deep trouble when they address their mistakes, if they even bother to do so at all.
One of the central principals I try to teach my children is that growing up is all about accepting and getting good at responsibility. Whether it’s the small stuff, like doing your own dishes, bigger stuff like paying your own bills, or even bigger stuff, like taking care of others, like the responsibility that comes from having your own kids, it’s all about different degrees of responsibility for your own actions, and later those of others.
Yet it’s amazing to me how many people have big problems with this concept. Whether it’s the collective finger pointing at others saying “They started it” -with whatever flimsy excuse we think lead to the Iraq War – or something much more benign, like failing to execute on a task, or simply turfing it over to others because you can’t be bothered- this can be a huge problem.
Governmentally, we have to be able to take responsibility for our decisions and their outcomes, good and bad, Personally, it’s no different. Every day we have thousand of choices we can make, and the ones where we take responsibility, take ownership, are the sources of our power and control. Those we decide to ignore, not execute on, or simply allow others to execute on because of our own lack of action… then we get what we get.
Election day is coming up soon- this may not be a presidential year, but it’s still important. It’s your responsibility as an adult to go to the ballot box and make your voice heard. If you don’t take that affirmative action and vote, then I say you lose your ability to kvetch and complain about politics for the next year until you get to vote again. You need to engage- even if your candidate doesn’t win, you need to be part of the process and do your part, or simply shut up.
I have a good friend who likes to style himself as the court jester- the person who was supposed to tell the King things in allegory and joke, poking fun, yet telling the truth to those in power. On some levels, this is okay- it’s supposed to be the gentle delivery of a version of the truth.
However, after a while, you understand why court jesters got their heads chopped off. It’s easy to throw water balloons and cream pies from the sidelines- it’s an entirely different matter to be the one who wears the crown and bears the responsibility for things going well or going badly. The saying “Heavy is the head that wears the crown” just means that taking responsibility for things is not fun, even if it is necessary.
And those that avoid responsibility by constantly telling you it’s your own dang problem may not be seeing the hwole picture or even care. After all, throwing the water balloons is so much more fun than actually doing the work.